As it is with every hot trend -- one good idea leads to a plethora of variations.

Adult coloring books are no exception. The variety of coloring books is vast, from meditative and stress-reducing, to fun, fanciful and even a bit naughty when they play on the “adult” theme.

Now in addition to adult coloring books, there are color-your-own greeting cards, post cards and bookmarks. There are even adult coloring apps for your smartphone.

And there is Zentangle -- which is not coloring per se, but drawing according to a fluid formula of repetitive patterns.

Unlike coloring books, Zentangle begins with a blank, coaster-size square of paper (called a tile), a pencil and high-quality felt-tip pen.

Zentanglers follow a few basic steps beginning with a “tangle” (imagine dropping a piece of string on a piece of paper) and repeating patterns like “auras” and “holliboughs,” which are then highlighted by filling in select spaces and shading with pencil to create impressive intricate doodle-esque images.

“We don’t use the D word,” said Carrie Smith, certified Zentangle instructor teaching classes for Southeast Community College’s continuing education program.

Zentangle is not doodling.

It’s also not coloring.

It’s sort of like Golden Retrievers and Labradors. Both are retrievers. And both are wonderful breeds of dogs, but they certainly are not the same thing.

In fact, Zentangle creators Maria Thomas and Rick Roberts are so adamant about not drawing comparisons between the two, that they declined to be interviewed for the story if it included references to adult coloring.

Which is too bad, because Zentangle is really cool -- and no doubt would appeal to most colorists.

Roberts and Thomas are not trying to be elitist. They just truly believe -- and rightfully so -- that coloring between the lines of someone else’s previously produced art, is vastly different from creating your own.

“Even though components may appear similar … the patterns that people color in … and the patterns that result from drawing according to the Zentangle Method -- the two are quite different,” Roberts wrote in an email. “In the coloring books, the person is coloring in what someone else has already created for them. In the Zentangle Method, a person is discovering, sometimes for the first time, that they can create those images themselves … and that it looks (and feels) wonderful!”

No matter how you couch it, one cannot draw comparisons between coloring and Zentangle, which is exactly what Roberts and Thomas desperately want to avoid.

“Coloring seems more escapist,” said Smith, who is forthright in saying she is not a colorist.

Zentangle is focusing. It is deliberate.

“With coloring you stay between the lines. With Zentangle you don’t have to,” Smith said. “It is more about the process than the product.”

A process that anybody who can hold a pen can learn, she said. A process with no right or wrongs, and no such thing as mistakes.

“We all see patterns in the world. Patterns are the way the world makes sense. They are the way our brains work,” Smith said.

Zentangle breaks those patterns into strokes.

“It’s more structured than doodling,” Smith said.

Which is why Zentangle is best learned in a class, Smith said.

But Zentangle and coloring have similar benefits. Both are relaxing, calming, centering.

But Zentangle adds another element: empowerment.

Discovering that although you may believe you have absolutely no artistic talent, that you can create unique and beautiful works of art simply by following your own intuition, Smith said.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7217 or On Twitter @LJSerinandersen.


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